SUPPORT BUSINESS– DON’T DISPLACE IT
Since the new threat posed to both our health and economy by the Omicron variant, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce has urged the Scottish and UK Governments to work together to avoid the displacement of business around the four nations as they tackle the Covid 19 pandemic by ensuring convergence of measures.
In particular, the Chamber is keen to ensure the city’s already hard-hit tourism and hospitality sectors are protected by additional financial support from government. The doubling of the £220m funding to tackle the pandemic, announced in the autumn budget is welcome news.
Liz McAreavey, Chief Executive, said: “While protecting the health of our citizens is rightly a clear priority for Government, it is essential that decisions are based on data and are transparently supported by scientific, evidence-based advice. There is also a danger that without real convergence of policy between the four nations, Scotland and Edinburgh, risk losing visitors and business to other parts of the UK.
“The at-risk sectors support tens of thousands of families within Edinburgh. It is therefore essential that if the Scottish Government imposes restrictions that curtail their ability to do business as usual, there is a package of financial support to mitigate the impact.
“Edinburgh and the city region contributes over 30% of the Scottish economy, our cities, and in particular our city centres, will play a significant role in our national recovery. Our business community has consistently stepped up to comply with and support the effort to make citizens feel safe. The Government must now look to how it supports our city centres in a meaningful way as we continue to navigate our way through this pandemic.”
With the potential of new restrictions being imposed to address the new Omicron variant, businesses are facing an uncertain future despite the huge effort and significant investment many businesses across the city have made to ensure their customers and employees feel safe, secure, and protected, often going over and above requirements.
Liz added: “In the face of ever-changing rules and policies, businesses have shown an amazing capacity for innovation and resilience. Many of our members have also stepped up to support the local and national effort from donations, voluntary work and supporting citizens and community groups directly, to supporting the roll out of the national vaccination programme.”
- Mass vaccination centres were set up to support the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Edinburgh. These included the Royal Highland Showground at Ingliston and the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Edinburgh Airport also supported the Government’s UK-wide drive to increase testing by opening a drive-through testing facility.
- Many organisations also stepped up their work to support communities, including Cyrenians who set up a new Food Production Service working with furloughed chefs, students and community members to produce over 100,000 oven ready meals for those in need.
- Leanne Farmer, founder of “A Wee Pedal” cycle tours, used her fleet of bikes to help support key workers and to help city women rediscover the joys of cycling. As well as loaning out her fleet of bikes to key workers Leanne also offered to service bikes as well as offering free community rides throughout the year.
- The leading construction and infrastructure contractor, Balfour Beatty, responded to the impact of COVID-19 in education and employability, by developing an innovative ‘virtual work experience’ for young people aged 14-18. The first 5-week course ran in November 2020, which saw over 30 students gain their Industrial Cadet Award. Following this success, a second programme was launched in February 2021 which had over 450 registered students.
Following the news of new measures, including reintroducing physical distancing, working from home where possible and advice to cancel Christmas parties, we have seen a real slow down of business in the city centre. The fragile recovery and optimism we started to see pre-Omicron, appears to be waning. Let us hope that the vaccination and booster programme provides confidence to return to a more open economy.